Their solution to a looming, albeit erratic, water crisis? Sending water from Minnesota and the Great Lakes or around.
“The West is arid. We haven’t planned well enough. We need Midwest water, “reads an online headline of the July 15 letters to the editor.
“When floods hit the Midwest, the West helps pay,” reads another July 17 headline letter. “So give us some water.”
“Snowbirds overwinter in the desert, but are they reluctant to share water? Hypocrisy! “Reads a headline dated July 19.
“The United States went to the moon. It can certainly move water from the Midwest to the West, “reads another letter dated July 12.
PROBLEM DRIVING ONLINE TRAFFIC
Julie Makinen, executive editor of Desert Sun, said she has never seen so much traffic for a single letter, such as the one that attracted nearly 75,000 page views on June 22, when a Las Vegas resident kicked off the game by writing that Mississippi River water could be diverted to the Colorado River.
The problem that suggests that alleged solution? A mega drought measured last year across western states like California and Nevada and extending to Montana and Texas is believed to be the worst of its kind in 1,200 years.
“(Environmental Reporter) Janet Wilson’s article about federal officials taking drastic measures to stop California’s water crisis was fantastic,” Bill Nichols wrote in a 99-word letter to the editor. “Instead of just conservation, how about a Tennessee Water Authority-like project to divert the Mississippi River and build a canal with reservoirs along the way, to channel it into the Colorado River? Kill two birds with two stones – not so far-fetched when you see the kind of projects being built in the Middle East and China! It is about will “.
“Talking about a great business project,” added Nichols, “and a fantastic way to usher in a new decade for the Southwest.”
Then, on June 30, a letter writer’s suggestion that “we could fill Lake Powell in less than a year with an aqueduct from (the) Mississippi River” was picked up by Google’s “Discover” feed, which automatically matches news to users based on their interests.
Suddenly, that single letter from Desert Sun got 465,000 page views online, a record for the newspaper, which has a paid daily circulation of 20,000 to 50,000 copies.
‘IT’S JUST CRAZY’
“It just blew up,” Makinen said, noting that it usually takes a bit of effort to find a glittering rate for the letter pages. “It was just crazy. I’ve been here for four years and we’ve never had this level of involvement. ”
The latest controversy on the big letters page, he said, involved a proposal last year to install a giant statue of Marilyn Monroe, pale legs in a fluttering dress, in downtown Palm Springs.
The growing, some might say thirsty, demand for Mississippi River water has not been met while seated. Midwestern snowbirds familiar with the paper, among other readers, also wrote, horrified at the prospect of pumping or hauling river water roughly 1,900 miles across the country to some of the warmer, more expensive corners. and the nation’s most overpopulated.
Several writers have expressed concern about the predictable environmental effects of water diversion causing groundwater to fall, destroying wetlands, draining farms, and potentially changing the weather patterns needed to support the American barn.
“Midwest water could carry invasive species,” warns a letter writer, ready for the consequences of a hypothetical water corridor.
“I live in Red Wing, Minnesota,” begins a recent letter from reader Paul Cofell. “I recently noticed several letters to the editor in your publication promoting the withdrawal of water from the Mississippi River or the Great Lakes and the diversion to California via a pipeline or aqueduct. I’ll save you some time by informing you that it won’t happen because the local citizens here don’t want you to have that water ”.
Cofell added: “There are a lot of people living along the Mississippi River and around the Great Lakes who really, really, don’t like California or the Californians.” He also pointed to a time period in California history when farmers in the valley near Los Angeles blew up an aqueduct that was stealing their agua.
“We have a lot of dynamite in Minnesota,” Cofell wrote. “My advice to you is: Don’t California in the upper Midwest.”
PREVIOUS: A LAKEVILLE AQUATIC TRAIN
This isn’t the first time the US water scarcity issue has inspired proposals to borrow H2O from the Mississippi River.
In 2019, a Lakeville railway company made plans to pump 500 million gallons of groundwater annually from a Southeast Minnesota aquifer for shipping to the arid Southwest. Elected officials in Dakota County have complained, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has acted swiftly to assure residents that the DNR sees “virtually no scenario” in which the agency would grant a water-appropriation permit for the project.
That proposal was born with Empire Building Investments, the real estate branch of Progressive Rail based in Lakeville.
Alarmed, the Dakota County Board of Commissioners voted to pass stricter water control regulations in May 2020 and April 2021 that prohibit new wells from using more than 50 million gallons of water annually to commercial or institutional water supplies. They exempted agricultural uses.State and county officials have noted that Minnesota has its own challenges when it comes to keeping hydrated. The state was hit by a widespread historical drought last year, and parts of the state started sliding back into drought territory this summer.
“The reality is that we anticipate water supply problems here in the next 10-15 years,” said Joe Atkins, Dakota County Commissioner, pointing to the 2019 County Water Resources Study. “With all 440,000 residents of the Dakota County who rely on groundwater or Mississippi water as a source of their drinking water, I would fight like hell to protect our water resources and our residents. ”
Atkins added, “I think Palm Springs supporters of this half-cooked idea have been out in the hot sun for too long. I would like to remind them that they live in a desert and invite them to look for a different way to keep their golf courses green. “.
DNR: ‘MINNESOTA DOES NOT HAVE AN OVERFLOW OF WATER’
In response to a reporter’s investigation, the DNR released an unsigned statement on Wednesday that, in slightly more technical language, said more or less the same thing.
Through the DNR, the state is responsible for protecting the public water supply up and down the river, waterway transportation, agricultural production, fish habitat, migratory birds, and recreational activities vital to the economy. All of this could be negatively affected by the absorption of millions of liters of water.
“More generally, it is important to recognize that Minnesota does not inherently have an overabundance of water,” reads the DNR statement. “Last year’s drought that affected most of Minnesota is also a reminder of how even ‘the Land of 10,000 Lakes’ can quickly experience severe water shortages.”
Among the legal considerations, state law prohibits the DNR from issuing a water appropriation permit of more than 1 million gallons per year if the water is sent more than 50 miles from the source and used for any other purpose. from the public water supply.
“When the water would be used solely for public water supply, the Minnesota DNR is barred from issuing a water appropriation permit if the water will be sent more than 100 miles from the point of appropriation,” according to the DNR. . “This isn’t the first time people have suggested transporting water from the Midwest to the arid western states. These proposals present a number of practical, legal and social challenges that have proved insurmountable in the past. … It is important to understand the context that makes such proposals both unwise and unlikely ”.
‘SURF PARKS’ OF THE DESERT AND A DISNEY LAGOON?
The United States Army Corps of Engineers also released a written statement last week indicating that they cannot speculate on hypothetical proposals that they have not formally studied.
However, Army Corps officials have privately acknowledged a number of potential problems, not the least of which is the issue of inadvertently transporting endangered or invasive species from one part of the country to another.
For Makinen, the editor of Desert Sun, the war of words over water adds a fun undertone to what would otherwise be a serious topic: the tension between widespread drought-like conditions and the growing real estate development in and around Tony Palm Springs. .
About 24 million people live in Southern California, making it the second largest combined statistical area in the nation behind the New York City subway. And it’s hot. And getting hotter.
In March, the Desert Sun reported that across California, the average amount of water produced per customer was 66 gallons per day in January, but many areas of the Coachella Valley around Palm Springs pumped nearly three times that amount.
And that’s despite California Governor Gavin Newsom’s request last summer to cut water use by 15 percent. Newsom’s requests have not gone far in the area served by the Desert Water Agency, where water consumption has actually increased. Three Coachella Valley water agencies ranked in the state’s top five residential water users last winter, according to state data collected by the newspaper.
Instead of extreme conservation measures, more than one Palm Springs area developer has proposed “surf parks,” where resort visitors and club members can surf in wave pools overlooking the desert.
“Disney is building a huge new development here that will have a 24-acre lagoon,” Makinen said. “We have 100 golf courses here. Even though this is a desert and the state is subject to all these restrictions on water, local water agencies treat this area as an island, where they have reassured people that we are not on the verge of running out of water. “